My Turn, Ronnie Smith: Memorial Day a time to remember

Published 12:00 am Sunday, May 21, 2023

Memorial Day is Monday, May 29, and it is a time to remember our veterans who served our country and gave their lives in defense of our great nation. For me, that thought is with me almost daily, especially when I remember three veterans who served with me in Vietnam. They were killed in action in combat. One was Lt. Dick Christie and two were from Salisbury, Lt. Joe Hearne Rufty and Lt. Forrest Hollifield. The latter two have their names enshrined with other veterans on the Vietnam Wall in Washington, DC and on our Rowan County Vietnam Memorial in Salisbury’s City Park.

Yes, it is difficult for me to think about them because I feel a sense of guilt that I survived the war and returned home, and they did not. It was my honor and privilege to serve as military escort for Lt. Hollifield whose body we flew home from Vietnam to Salisbury.

Probably every Vietnam veteran, and all veterans of all wars, has a story like mine. While we deal with these painful memories on a daily basis, let us always remember that Memorial Day is a day to celebrate the legacies of those veterans who paid the ultimate sacrifice so that we may enjoy our freedom.

So, on this Memorial Day, let us all take time to remember our veterans who gave their lives while fighting for our country. While we recognize many veterans today with “Thank you for your service,” those who gave their lives in service to our country will be remembered forever as heroes.

When I think back to the Vietnam War, I can’t help but think that I could have also been killed in combat. But I wasn’t. So, why was I spared? Perhaps it was fate or maybe because my parents always ended their weekly letters with “May God be your co-pilot.”

It is clear to me that as veterans, one of our duties today is to use our military experiences to continue to honor and serve our country and fellow veterans. All veterans who survived war have a sacred obligation to remember those who did not. We all sacrificed something. Some sacrificed everything.

On behalf of our Rowan County veterans, we invite you to help us place over 17,000 miniature American flags on the graves of our veterans on Saturday morning, May 27, at 8 a.m. at both of Salisbury’s National Cemeteries. You are also invited to join us in celebrating Memorial Day on Monday, May 29, at 10 a.m. with a special ceremony at our Salisbury National Cemetery behind the VA Medical Center. Thank you for remembering.

Ronnie Smith is a U.S. Air Force veteran.